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'We are heartbroken': Tributes pour in for journalists killed live on air

The alleged shooter Vester Lee Flanagan II, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said the Charleston shooting in June led him to buy a gun.

THE MAN WHO earlier today killed a reporter and cameraman live on air on a Virginian TV station has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Franklin County Sheriff confirmed the shooter died from his injuries at Fairfax Inova Hospital at 1.30pm local time (6.30pm GMT).

In a press conference, Sheriff Bill Overton expressed his condolences with the families and colleagues of the journalists.

He said police are “still piecing together the timeline of events” that occurred ahead of the shooting.

During the ensuing pursuit, a policeman attempted to stop Flanagan but he refused and shot himself.

Overton said the motive for the attack is not yet known, however a manifesto said to be written by Flanagan cites the Charleston church shooting in June as a significant factor.

The victims have been named as reporter Alison Parker (24) and photographer Adam Ward (27). The shooter has been named as Vester Lee Flanagan II.

He previously worked for the station using the on-air name Bryce Williams.

vester Source: WDBJ7

Earlier, WDBJ general manager Jeff Marks said:

I’m not sure whether I want him to live or die. We’re hurt enough that we want to express our anger, and our love for Alison and Adam.

The TV crew were working on a segment for WDBJ7’s Mornin’ show when the incident took place.

Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce was also injured in the shooting. She underwent surgery after being shot.

Chris Turnbull from the Carilion Clinic, where she was treated, said she is in a stable condition.

screengrab Moments before the shooting. Source: Screengrab/YouTube

Flanagan (41) posted footage of the shooting to his personal social media accounts, which have now been suspended.

Todd Schurz, president and CEO of Schurz Communications, which owns WDBJ, said the company is “heartbroken at the tragic and senseless loss of reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward”.

At the time of their murders, they were involved in the most important aspect of journalism — telling the stories important to their local communities. Our focus now is to comfort their families and loved ones and to assist law enforcement in their investigation.

‘Difficult to work with’

Management said Flanagan was let go from the station in 2013, after gaining a reputation for being “difficult to work with”.

Flanagan brought a civil suit against WTWC-TV in Florida in 2000 which was settled out of court. Following his dismissal, he filed a racial discrimination case against WDBJ with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This was dismissed.

Manifesto

ABC News has reported it received a fax containing a 23-page manifesto from someone named Bryce Williams. The document has been handed over to investigators.

The network reports that the manifesto mentions mass shootings such as Columbine, Virginia Tech and Charleston.

In the document, which is titled ‘Suicide Note for Friends and Family’, Flanagan alleges he was bullied and discriminated against because he is gay and black.

He said the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in June – in which nine people were killed at a historic African-American church – drove him to commit today’s murders.

AFP quotes the document as saying:

Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15.

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

The initial shooting took place at 6.45am local time (11.45am GMT) while the crew was filming an interview at Bridgewater Plaza shopping centre in Smith Mountain Lake, Moneta.

manhunt Source: Screengrab/NBC12

‘In love’

Ward was engaged to the show’s producer, Melissa Ott, who was marking her last day’s work on the programme before starting a new job.

Brian Stelter, who works with WDBJ7 affiliate CNN, said Ott was in the control when the shooting happened and saw events unfold.

Parker was in a relationship with one of the station’s presenters Chris Hurst. Shortly after the incident, Marks said: “They both were in love,” adding: “Our hearts are broken.”

Marks described the incident as a “terrible crime against two fine journalists”.

WDBJ spokesman Mike Morgan told AP Ward had been with the station for four years.

Adam was our go-to guy. He pretty much was available to do anything that we asked. He did live shots during our morning show for several years.

Parker and Ward’s colleagues have been paying tribute to them.

- with reporting from Dan MacGuill

Originally published: 14.04

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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